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Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) account for the death of 41 million people in the world annually. It is responsible for 71% of deaths that occur globally.

About 85% of deaths due to NCDs occur in middle and low-income countries.

It is interesting to note that respiratory diseases account for 3.9 million deaths that are due to Non-communicable diseases.

The numbers above show us the gravity of this problem and why we need to pay attention to it.

The major risk factors for NCDs are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Physical inactivity
  • Harmful use of alcohol
  • Unhealthy diet

What are respiratory Noncommunicable diseases?

  • They are also called chronic respiratory diseases and refer to diseases that affect the airways (tubes that carry air from the nose into the lungs) and other lung structures.

What are the different types of respiratory NCDs?

Common respiratory NCDs include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Occupational lung diseases
  • Air pollution
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

It is important to note that just like other noncommunicable diseases, respiratory NCDs are not curable. Thus prevention is the best option hence the need to talk about these illnesses. However, with the right treatment, symptoms can be improved and quality of life increased for those that already have the ailment.

Now let us talk a bit more about some of the respiratory NCDs.


About 235 million people worldwide are said to suffer from asthma. It is a very common disease among children and affects all age groups including adults.

Asthma is an allergic airway disease, that causes narrowing of the air passages in the throat and lungs, which then reduces the amount of air that flows in and out of the lungs.

This gives rise to the symptoms which include:

  • Recurrent episodes of breathlessness
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing

It is important to note that the symptoms vary from person to person.

Risk factors of asthma are a combination of:

  • Genetic predisposition (family history of asthma or allergies)
  • Environmental exposure to certain substances that can trigger an allergic reaction in the airways.

Common triggers are:

  • Cold
  • Dust
  • Strong smells
  • Exhaust fumes
  • Chemicals
  • Strong emotions
  • Stress etc.

Why is asthma important?

Not only does asthma cause great distress to the person suffering from it, but it also affects their family, friends and society. It reduces the quality of life of those affected and impacts the economy due to absent days at work and reduced productivity.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is usually made by a doctor with the aid of certain tests such as the lung function test.

Management is with the use of drugs (inhalers) and this helps to ensure that does with asthma live a fulfilling life devoid of frequent attacks.

Avoiding known triggers also goes a long way of reducing the frequency of symptoms.